Potomac’s Oasis for Learning

Potomac’s Oasis for Learning

Program targets 50 years and older.

Spanish instructor Judith Lowe leads an Oasis class.

Spanish instructor Judith Lowe leads an Oasis class. Photo Contributed


Volunteers can change a life "One orange slice at a time" with the Oasis CATCH Healthy Habits program.

— Just moments away from Potomac is OASIS — a hidden gem offering lifelong learning, healthy living activities and social engagement. Many classes are held inside the Macy’s Home Store at Westfield’s Montgomery Mall, but others are located throughout the county. Its 51-page brochure lists a variety of opportunities that provide everything from exercise programs to volunteer opportunities, interesting and informative classes taught by local experts to technology training that will build confidence with the latest computer, iPad or Facebook challenge.

According to the www.oasisnet.org, the vision of OASIS is to “see that adults age 50 and older across the country have opportunities to pursue vibrant, healthy, productive and meaningful lives.”

OASIS, a non-profit organization based in St. Louis, is now active in 43 cities across 25 states and serves more than 59,000 individuals each year. Potomac residents are fortunate because the OASIS program, the only one in the D.C. Metro area, is offered in close by and provides intellectual and social stimulation at an low cost.

The organization was established in 1982 by Marylen Mann and a group of educators and volunteers who pioneered educational wellness and volunteer programs that helped older adults stay healthy and engaged within their communities. At first, the U.S. Administration on Aging funded the two-year project to demonstrate the feasibility of a public-private partnership. The May Company (now Macy’s) agreed to provide space for OASIS classes in their stores.


OASIS exercise classes get people moving.

As Macy’s expanded, the company built permanent sites in their stores for OASIS centers. OASIS partners with Suburban Hospital, John Hopkins Medicine, AT&T, The Village at Rockville, WPAS, BCC and Rockville Rotary Clubs and other community businesses and organizations. More than 200 volunteers support the four staff members at the Washington Metropolitan OASIS.

Potomac resident Cindy Oser registers each session for classes and “Meet-up” tours with OASIS. “The day I receive the brochure, I circle what I’m interested in and sign up, since the classes fill up quickly. I love OASIS because it offers single classes taught at 10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m., the lecturers are outstanding experts in the field, and the classes are very inexpensive — usually $10. Most are held at Montgomery Mall or at close-by facilities. Some of my favorites have included a tour of the Underground Railroad in Montgomery County, lectures by State’s Attorney John McCarthy on High Profile Trials in Montgomery County, touring the the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress with an excellent guide, Ambassador Philip Wilcox speaking on conflict between Israel and Palestine, and musician Daryl Davis’ lectures on Rock and Roll and the Ku Klux Klan. The tours are excellent, the classes informative and interesting and I love learning about new topics,” she said.

Just a few of the multitude of classes offered for the Winter-Spring term include “The Queen of Country Music: Patsy Cline,” “The Steep Ascent: A Visit With Anne Morrow Lindbergh,” “Aromatherapy for Fun and Wellness,” “Fighting Hate, Teaching Tolerance, Seeking Justice,” “The Scoop on Sports with George Solomon,” “Tomorrow Has Arrived — Robotics Today,” “Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Spanish,” “Winning Germ Warfare in the Kitchen,” “Gentle and Intermediate Yoga” and more. Women’s and men’s separate discussion groups are held on a weekly basis and book discussions are held monthly. Some classes include live performances by the instructor.

Anna Stokes, executive director of the Washington Metropolitan/D.C. OASIS program said, “OASIS is the best-kept secret in Montgomery County. Our class topics are selected from listening to our members and reading the evaluations filled out after each session. Many classes with our ‘rock-star’ instructors are taught every session because they are so popular and because we limit the number of people that can take each class. If there is no room in a class, you are then on a waiting list. Classes are small, which allows for interaction between the instructors and the attendees. Our “Meet-up Trips are extremely popular because the tours are fascinating and led by docents who are extremely well informed.”

“OASIS is all about living and learning,” said Stokes. “One retired social worker signs up for about 40 classes each trimester. She said that she enjoys finally having the time to take classes for fun. I’ve seen some wonderful intergenerational friendships form because our participants are active people who are interested in the world around them. We are also a wonderful place for anyone who has lost a spouse and looking for new ways to socially engage, exercise and add to their lives.”

Additionally, OASIS offers classes to improve one’s health. Active Start is a program that combines Active Living Every Day, a behavior change discussion class, and ExerStart is a beginning level exercise class to help introduce physical activity into one’s life. Every session, a physician offers a free class concerning a health issues. In January, the class was called “Bladder Matters” – a topic that was fully subscribed. Another program is the CATCH Healthy Habits program in which adults volunteer to help children combat childhood obesity by working with children in grades K-5 leading active games, sharing healthy snacks and teaching them about good food choices. More than 3000 volunteers and 16,700 children have benefitted from this program.

An OASIS program also provides volunteers to individually tutor and mentor children. Tutors complete a training program, learning how to instruct and encourage children in grades K-4. After completion of the training, volunteers are asked to commit to meeting weekly with a child throughout the school year. The program does understand that tutors may have vacation commitments or personal emergencies. One does not need teaching experience but should be enthusiastic, patient, compassionate — and willing to serve as a friend and mentor. OASIS works with MCPS to pair the children with volunteers.

“This is an excellent opportunity to change a life by providing individual attention to help a child build confidence and experience success,” Stokes said. “Everyone benefits from the relationship; some of the stories that the tutors tell are immensely heartwarming.”

OASIS Connections is a program that features “Technology training that delivers results.” These tech classes have enrolled more than 92,000 adults in classes to build skills and confidence in using computers, the Internet and portable devices. Some of the technology instruction includes the iPad, iPhone, Android tablet and Android phone, Computers, Windows 7 and 8 and Microsoft Office, Email, Internet and WiFi, Job search and resume writing, Facebook, Google, eBay, Picassa, Internet safety, genealogy, photography and more.

To learn more about OASIS, check out its website at www.oasisnet.org, send an email to washingtonmetro@oasisnet.org or call 301-469-6800, press 1, x211.